The eighth round of EU-UK future-relations negotiations has once again ended in deadlock under a cloud of mistrust and further complications
The eighth round of furniture negotiations between the EU and the UK has ended under a cloud of mistrust but despite the current political climate both sides have agreed to meet next week again.
The UK’s announcement this week that they intend to break international law by changing key terms in the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed in October last year has led already delicate negotiations into much more tense territory.
Even within the Conservative Party, divisions are turning to chasams as many Tories believe the breaking of an international agreement damages the UK’s reputation across the globe and will leave it difficult to create valuable and concrete agreements with other nations in the future.
In the US, the Democratic Party has heavily criticised Johnson’s decision and said they will block any future trade deals with the UK.
Within the UK itself, the First Minister in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon and the First Minister in Wales, Mark Drake have both vowed to vote down the Internal Market Bill which is at the centre of the controversy.
Yesterday there was an extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee to discuss the contents of the Internal Market Bill where the European Commission’s Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič met with Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
It was very little wonder that the eight round of future relations between the two blocs once again ended on a somewhat sour note.
On the negotiations, EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said:
“The eighth round of negotiations on the future EU-UK partnership took place in London this week.
“The EU remains committed to an ambitious future partnership with the UK. This would clearly be to the benefit of both sides. Nobody should underestimate the practical, economic and social consequences of a “no deal” scenario.
“In order to maximise the chances of a deal, the EU has shown flexibility to work around the UK’s red lines and find solutions that fully respect the UK’s sovereignty. In particular with regard to the role of the European Court of Justice, the future legislative autonomy of the UK, and fisheries.
“However, on its side, the UK has not engaged in a reciprocal way on fundamental EU principles and interests.
“Significant differences remain in areas of essential interest for the EU.
“The UK is refusing to include indispensable guarantees of fair competition in our future agreement, while requesting free access to our market. We have taken note of the UK government’s statement on “A new approach to subsidy control”. But this falls significantly short of the commitments made in the Political Declaration.
“Similarly, we are still missing important guarantees on non-regression from social, environmental, labour and climate standards.
“Modern trade agreements are about ensuring sustainable and fair partnerships with high standards in areas like the environment, climate, employment, health and safety, and taxation.
“These principles are now at the heart of EU trade policy: with the UK, and with other partners around the world.
“And they are at the heart of the EU’s negotiating mandate. For the EU, its Member States and the European Parliament, any future economic partnership, regardless of its level of ambition, must ensure that competition is both free and fair.
“The UK has moreover not engaged on other major issues, such as credible horizontal dispute settlement mechanisms, essential safeguards for judicial cooperation and law enforcement, fisheries, or level playing field requirements in the areas of transport and energy.
“There are also many uncertainties about Great Britain’s sanitary and phyto-sanitary regime as from 1 January 2021. More clarity is needed for the EU to do the assessment for the third-country listing of the UK.
“To conclude a future partnership, mutual trust and confidence are and will be necessary. The Chief Negotiators and their teams will remain in contact over the coming days.
“At the same time, the EU is intensifying its preparedness work to be ready for all scenarios on 1 January 2021.”
At his press conference earlier Mr Barnier said “the UK government’s position would lock out Ireland’s fishermen and women from waters they fished in long before Ireland or the UK joined the EEC. This is just not acceptable” referring to the fact that there was no 200 mile limit in 1973 when the UK, Ireland and Denmark joined the then Economic Community. Previous to that, Irish and UK fishing vessels shared the same territorial waters.
The EU Fisheries Alliance tweeted “Any Brexit agreement must respect centuries of reality on the ground.”
Lord Frost, Chief Negotiator for the UK, said of the negotiations that concluded yesterday:
“We have just completed our eighth round of negotiations with the EU. We covered all issues in some detail, including the most difficult ones.
“These were useful exchanges. However, a number of challenging areas remain and the divergences on some are still significant.
“We have been consistently clear from the start of this process about the basis on which agreement is possible between us. Those fundamentals remain. We have engaged in discussions in all areas. We have consistently made proposals which provide for open and fair competition, on the basis of high standards, in a way which is appropriate to a modern free trade agreement between sovereign and autonomous equals.
“We remain committed to working hard to reach agreement by the middle of October, as the Prime Minister set out earlier this week.
“We have agreed to meet again, as planned, in Brussels next week to continue discussions.”